Weekend Highlights

Published April 22, 2011
Going Places

Parent Review: Renton’s Uptown Glassworks

by Jenni Prange Boran
seattle child article photo
Getting ready to blow a glass orb.
Photo by Jenni Prange Boren

seattle child article photo
Photo by Jenni Prange Boren

The Pacific Northwest is a bit of a show off when it comes to the delicate art of blowing glass. From Tacoma-born glass legend Dale Chihuly’s studio (not to mention all the public installations from here to Dubai), to the Pilchuk Glass School in Stanwood to Tacoma’s Museum of Glass you couldn’t find a more inspiring region for an aspiring young glass blower.

And if you’ve got one of those in your brood, downtown Renton’s 17-year-old Uptown Glassworks is just the place to take him. Uptown’s Blow Your Own program is a fantastic way for kids to try their hand at blowing.  

“The other day we had an 18-month-old sitting on the stool blowing glass,” says Uptown Glassworks’ owner Paul Sullivan.  “The little fellow had some help from his dad.”

The Blow Your Own program, however, is not just for kids. It’s for everyone. In fact, when my 4-year-old son and I arrived to give it a try, a small group ranging from the age of 6 to, perhaps, 60, was waiting in the ‘hot shop,’ about to create beautiful and unique pieces. 

First we got to choose from an array of simple yet beautiful glass styles ranging in cost from around $25-$40 from the Blow Your Own table.  Next, we picked our own color from a rainbow about twenty shades strong, all with cool names like ‘ocean’ and ‘granite.’  Then we picked up our straw. 

Then?  Take a seat on the stool and await instruction.

My son watched in awe from the viewing area just outside the hot shop as 6-year-old Nevada Nelson sat on the hot shop stool and blew, shy at first, then with some direction from Uptown artist and hot shop attendant Tom Anderson. With Anderson’s instruction she blew more and more skillfully into the straw attached to a long black hose which led to a growing, glowing, green speckled glass orb.  Tom explained to Nevada how what they were forming together would become a beautiful glass dish while Uptown’s head glass blower Sean Kif dripped a honey-like blob of liquid glass onto a nearby table, creating the base for the dish.  

“I chose green,” Nevada said later of her one-of-a kind creation.  “It’s my favorite color and also my mom’s favorite color.”  My son took a page from Nevada’s book and, when asked what color he wanted, chose pink because “that’s Grandma Tina’s favorite color.” 

If you are bringing a super young glass artist, like my little guy, it might be a good idea to ask for your straw ahead of time so your little one can practice blowing.  My son initially blew into the straw the way one might blow out birthday candles—short bursts.  Tom set him straight by describing the action more as if it were the opposite of sucking a straw—a slow steady stream of air is what the glass is looking for.  In the end, with a little help from Mommy (and I was more than happy to help—now I can say I blew glass too!), we ended up with a lovely pink wavy candy dish which will be ready for pick-up in just three days. Won’t Grandma Tina be surprised!

It is noteworthy that not only is Uptown Glassworks a beautiful and sprawling showroom of sparkling treasures, and a great place to learn with your child, but it is also community-aware.  Uptown Glassworks works closely with the Friends for Life Guild. Through the guild, Uptown, develops unique, hand-blown glass ornaments using designs and colors selected by young cancer patients at Seattle Children’s Hospital. All proceeds from ornament sales benefit Pediatric Oncology Research at Seattle Children’s Hospital. 

Uptown also works with St. Anthony’s Private School in South Renton and has raised more than $20,000 in the last few years to benefit the school. And anyone who's taken home a Curvee Award from the growing Renton Film Frenzy, has an Uptown Glassworks work of art in their hands. Uptown blows all the awards for the film event. 

It’s a good idea to call ahead and set up your glass blowing appointment. Be sure to arrive about 10 minutes before your scheduled ‘Blow Your Own.’ If you go any time between June and September, consider a Tuesday afternoon so you can have a snack and shop around at the Renton Farmers Market at the Piazza from 3-7 p.m.

To schedule an appointment, call 425-228-1849.


(1) Comment(s)


Hey... I know that kid!! Lol! Sounds very interesting and promises to be a great time.. I will definately check it out.

Posted by Brian Westenhofer on Apr 25, 2011

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If You Go...

Uptown Glassworks

Address:  230 Main Avenue South, Renton, WA 98057-2601

Phone:  (425) 228-1849

For more information about Uptown Glassworks, their programs, classes and events, visit www.uptownglassworks.com

For more information about Blow Your Own, visit http://www.uptownglassworks.com/blowyourown.html 

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